Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reducing Gang Graffiti

     Gangs have been associated with graffiti- the most common type of property vandalism at 35% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).  Graffiti clean up is expensive.  12 billion dollars is spent annually in the United States for graffiti clean up (USDOJ, pg 2).  While gangs are not the sole producers of graffiti, gang and tagger graffiti are the most common type found where graffiti is prevalent.   It is important to understand why gangs continue to vandalize property if we want to reduce the frequency.  The motivation for gang graffiti stems from the motivational factors of rebellion, fame, power, challenge, and self-expression.  In responding to the problem of graffiti, it is important to reduce the rewards, increase the risk of detection, and increase the difficulty of offending.   


     Reducing the rewards for gang graffiti includes detecting and removing the graffiti rapidly and routinely.  In detection of graffiti, it is important to monitor gang graffiti prone areas on a routine basis through photographs, video, Neighborhood watch, and employees located in areas vulnerable to graffiti with access to immediate reporting capabilities (Weisel, pg 1).  Programs like Neighborhood watch can have productive results if it is organized and constant observational alerts are being sent through e-mail or another messaging system.  In removing of graffiti, it is important to do it promptly whether it is painting over graffiti or replacing signs and other property with gang graffiti on it (Weisel, pg 2).  By removing gang graffiti, it reduces the rewards because it eliminates the motivation for the gang member to graffiti which is rebellion, fame, power, and self-expression.  The gang member’s work has disappeared and all credit for it has vanished.  The gang member will forcibly think twice about reoffending because he knows that he will not receive any glory. 

     Reducing the rewards is important in reducing gang graffiti, but increasing the risk in detection is vital.  Increasing the risk can include increasing natural observation though simple improvements like increased lighting (Weisel, pg 2).  Motion-activated lighting and the removal of trees or shrubbery is a good place to start because graffiti is often done in dark places where chances of being seen are slim.  If the gang members chances of being seen increase, the risk of getting caught also increases.  Increasing the risk also helps eliminate the motivational factor of challenge because increased lighting is an obstacle that may not be worth the challenge for the gang member.      

     Increasing the difficulty of offending is also an important aspect in reducing the frequency of gang graffiti.  Vandal proofing vulnerable areas of gang graffiti tremendously increases the difficulty (Graffiti Hurts, pg 1).  Installing texted surfaces, dark or colorful surfaces, or using paint-like products resistant to graffiti all reduce the frequency.  A gang member will not tag an area that already has colorful or dark surfaces that will take away from his self-expressions through graffiti.  Gang members want their work to be seen, and these types of surfaces will only hinder their creation.  Techniques like this are simple tasks that can be done with planning and awareness.

     As gangs increase, gang graffiti will also increase.  It is important to understand ways to reduce the frequency of this vandalism.  The beauty of these approaches that reduce the rewards, increase the risk, and increase the difficulty is that it can be applied to all forms of graffiti, not just in gangs. 


1.  Weisel, Deborah. "The Problem of Graffiti." Popcenter. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <>.

2.  Bureau of Justice Statistics; Economy at a Glance." United States Department of Justice . N.p., 18 Oct. 2011. Web. <>.

3.  "Facts About Graffiti." Graffiti Hurts. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.


  1. I agree that graffiti should be cleaned up. A lot of the tagging/ graffiti occurs in train yards and in truck storage areas as well. These yards should be secured and patrolled by security. Often times these mobile works of graffiti serve as moving billboards for taggers. This outcome can be equal if not more gratifying for the tagger depending on their motive.

  2. I agree with cleaning up graffiti. I think it shows gang influence and when it is not removed we show that we approve of it like the broken window theory. I think that Neighborhood Watch is a good program for this. Most of these people sit at home anyways.